Peter Chung-Yi Lee received a B.S. in civil engineering in 1957 from Cheng-Kung University in Taiwan. He then moved to the United States to pursue graduate studies, first at Rutgers, where he earned an M.S. in civil engineering in 1961, and then Columbia University, where he completed another M.S. Peter then completed his Sc.D. in the Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics in 1965. For doctoral dissertation work, he focused his research on thickness-shear and flexural vibrations in quartz crystals. That work provided the first firm theoretical basis for the important phenomenon of cutoff frequency for thickness-shear vibrations.
After leaving Columbia, Peter spent a year as a Sloan Visiting Fellow at Princeton, in the Department of Civil and Geological Engineering. In September 1966, he was hired as an assistant professor at Princeton, and thereby began his 41-year faculty career in what is now the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Peter’s only research work focused on advanced mathematical investigations of vibrations in crystal plates, with more general theoretical work on waves and solids. This part of his career included important work on the temperature dependence of elastic constants for quartz crystals, and solutions for the extensional, flexural, and shear vibration in thin, rectangular-quartz plates. During his assistant professorship. Peter’s outstanding work on the vibrations of anisotropic elastic plates made him a recognized authority in the field.
Peter was promoted to associate professor in 1972, and to full professor in the Department of Civil Engineering in 1976. During this time, his research in the field of high-frequency vibrations made him one of the country’s best-known experts in the field. Peter also extended his research to include other areas of research within the civil engineering department, including problems involving water resources and fluid flow in porous media. For example, in 1977 he published a paper jointly with Professor William Gray on the theory of volume averaging for fluid-flow in porous media. This paper continues to be a basis for research in this important flow of inquiry. Peter also published papers related to finite-element modeling of different physical systems, including surface wave simulations. These are but two of many examples that demonstrate the breadth of Peter’s research. For his significant research contributions, he received the C.B. Sawyer Memorial Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in 1980. Peter’s later work focused on piezoelectric materials and their response to a variety of loadings. Overall, Peter has contributed fundamental new knowledge in the fields of wave propagation in isotropic and anisotropic elastic solids, high-frequency vibrations in piezoelectric crystals and ceramics, stress sensitivity of electromagnetic resonances in dielectric resonators and mesoscopic smart structures.
In addition to his extensive record of research accomplishments, Peter has served as the department as director of graduate studies on three different occasion, covering a total of seven years, and as departmental representative from 1983-85. He has been a very valuable adviser to graduate and undergraduate students, and is widely acknowledged as an outstanding teacher. Peter has taught all of the important courses in continuum mechanics and elastodynamics with students consistently referring to his superb classroom manner and his willingness to provide help and support outside the classroom. He has been an inspiration for generations of students at Princeton, and the department will miss his intellectual presence and gentle manner.